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Ugandan maid pleads guilty to baby torture

08 December 2014, 17:25

Kampala - A Ugandan maid pleaded guilty on Monday to torturing a baby in a case that shocked the country after a graphic video of her abusing the child was made public.

The 22-year-old maid, Jolly Tumuhiirwe, faces up to 15 years in prison for the assault, which the local press branded "spine-chilling".

Worried parents, who installed a hidden camera to film when they were at work, were shocked to see the footage showing the maid throwing the 18-month-old baby girl to the floor.

Tumuhiirwe, who the parents told Ugandan newspapers had worked for them for only two weeks, is seen to apparently try to force feed the baby, before slapping her hard.

She then kicked the child's face and stomach before putting her entire weight on the girl's back, and then dragged her out of the room, apparently unconscious. She also smashed the child on the head with a torch.

Also read: Uganda in shock at video of maid abusing baby

The baby, named in Ugandan media as Arnella, was left bruised and shaken by the abuse.

The video has been seen or shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media.

Ugandan newspapers called the footage "spine-chilling" and "very disturbing."

After her arrest, police said Tumuhiirwe would be charged with attempted murder, but in court in the Ugandan capital Kampala on Monday, she faced torture charges alone.

State prosecutor Joyce Tushabe said the maid, who had no lawyer, "was remorseful" in court.

- 'Inflicting pain without regard' -

She appeared smartly dressed in a floral shirt, coming face to face in court with the baby's father Eric Kamanzi, who reportedly broke down as she apologised for her actions.

"She said she was sorry for the act," Tushabe said.

"She asked for forgiveness from the parents of the child, the nation, and those she said were affected by her acts."

Tumuhiirwe was remanded in custody and will be sentenced on Wednesday.

UN children's agency chief in Uganda has condemned the abuse.

"The video of this baby being beaten is shocking," UNICEF head Aida Girma said. "Any such act of abuse and violence against children is completely unacceptable."

The case has gathered wide attention in Uganda, where many middle class parents hire maids to look after their children.

Maids in Uganda are often poorly paid, and regularly live in the houses where they work.

While the assault shocked the nation, some commentators said the abuse reflected wider issues of hidden violence in Ugandan society.

"Even at schools, children get beaten for very little, not getting a question right, not having hair combed, or nails cleaned," a comment piece in the country's Observer newspaper read.

"Ugandan children grow up numbed to pain, and end up inflicting pain without regard."

The case has prompted the country's Human Rights Commission to call on the labour ministry to draw up regulations for domestic workers.



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